You may have a great parcel of land zoned residential or commercial, only later to find out you can’t build on it. In fact, you may even have a real estate agent tell you of course it is buildable land. Even without plans, the building department can tell you sure, you can build in this area.
Then, you get to the step of turning the building plans in, only to receive a big rejection stamp.
10 Reasons Land Is Unbuildable.
Each county has a building department to deal with, while some let people do just about anything, some don’t. For example, some of the counties we deal with in Arizona love unique homes. Homes like AirCrete, adobe homes, mud homes, and container homes are welcomed there. But, you still have to visit the building department in some areas to get approval.
Some unincorporated areas do not require this, it’s basically the wild west out there. This is kinda cool in a way for some.
In contrast, some areas will grill you. You may spend the good part of six months just getting building approval. Then you will have constant inspections, high costs of paperwork, and may even have to tear things down they don’t like.
Some areas won’t let you do it yourself, they will require licensed contractors that are insured. I have heard of ways around this by having a contractor stop by here and there but I wouldn’t test the limits. Finding a contractor to put his name on something and not be there is like finding a needle in a haystack.
Annual Permit Limits
They may limit the number of permits per year, this is common in large cities and it could extend out to a very long waiting list. Or they can simply stop issuing permits altogether.
Lack of City Resources
Some places may not have roads for things like firetruck access, this is a problem for the counties. I’ve seen some beautiful land they reject building on just because they can’t access it easily in case of a fire or other emergencies. Therefore, the permit is denied, however, this can change once roads go in.
For whatever reason, a county may decide to make your land a hazard zone. Some because of fire, landslides, or really anything they want. They just don’t want to deal with anything outside the area during what they call “act of god disasters”. This can change, buildings bring in taxes and make the area more desirable. Therefore, they may all of a sudden decided it’s fine. Must not be that hazardous right?
I’ve even seen wonderful land which I suspected they reject permits just because it may be a headache for them. Why? Because there are homes there, but at some point, they simply stopped the permits. You must remember, these are just people with the power to make decisions, there doesn’t need to be an explanation to you. In fact, there are lawsuits abound over stuff like this. Typically with county decisions you see it coming, they propose it and vote on it.
Zoning Doesn’t Matter
While you may have residentially zoned property or even commercial zoned, it really doesn’t matter. This is basically a tax classification thing and separates from the building department. Also, they can change it at any time. For 10 years it may be buildable and then one year it’s not. You have no control. I’ve seen $100k lots go to the value of $10k overnight just because the building department decided they change their mind. Again, lots of lawsuits out there over these things.
Surprise, The Opposite Happened
The thing about land is you can make some serious returns on it. Some unbuildable cheap land can then be buildable all of a sudden. Maybe someone had a lawsuit and won the case, all of a sudden the unbuildable $10k land skyrockets in value because home builders want it now. There is a well-known case of this, a couple had a lot out in the middle of nowhere, you couldn’t build on it or anything. One day, a huge company decided to build a hub there due to the central location of the cities they deliver to. Of course, the building permit was approved for the company because of money talks. Crazy enough, they paid the couple something crazy like 1 million for it, a drop in the bucket for the company, but the location was very important due to cost savings long term.
While not always a denial for a permit, very sloped land may require some additional steps. Building departments may want some serious retaining walls, if you can’t afford it the permit will be rejected. You never know though, they may just decide to deny it anyway.
Because They Said So
You can be in the market to buy some land and even call the county to ask if it is buildable. They will say sure oftentimes, they just need to see the building plans. Once you put together your plans to build, they tell you it’s unbuildable. As we said, You can even ask a real estate agent first if it is buildable, then it turns out later it is not. You really don’t know sometimes till you get to that step. This is why we have to sell land as-is, we even call the county before we buy our land to make sure it is buildable. But we have zero control over what the building department decides when the plans are presented. They can make all sorts of rules anytime down the line.
Your Pockets Aren’t Deed Enough
You may have some land that was rejected for your build, commercial or residential. All of a sudden someone wants to buy it from you dirt cheap. Later to find out they built on the land you owned and made a huge return of you. Why? Not bribes, although who knows, but likely it is seen as an investment in the county. The county may decide the building improves values based on what they are building. So, they changed their mind. High values bring in more taxes after all.
Can You Change It?
The answer is, sometimes yes. There are many things you can do like petition the building department. Also, be aware, most land is buildable but they just have some requirements. Also remote land is usually exempt from restrictions as they don’t mind people living off-grid at their own risk of not having city support of fire trucks and the such. Just about all our land on www.landzero.com is buildable, it’s something we check. But again, we won’t know until the building department has the paperwork. For the land that is not buildable, we clearly tell it and look for other user codes. Some of these are things like camping, which is quite valuable on its own. Also, at some point, it may open up to the building which would make for some huge returns on investment when it changes.